I love food. Meal times used to be so relaxing and comforting around our house. Ivelina has a strange relationship with food that causes our meal times to be a little stressful sometimes. This has been one area where we have seen dramatic improvements in Ivelina's behavior though. We have high hopes that meal times will be fun and relaxing again one day soon.
While we were in country on our pick-up trip, mealtimes were bleh. I hated them. One of us would try to sneak into the kitchen to prepare something quick for the three of us. Usually Ivelina would realize the kitchen door was open and tear off to her seat expecting the meal to ready when she was. This was usually not the case, which resulted in incredible whining, crying, and tantrums. Then, once the food was placed before her, one of two things would happen. She would either stuff her face while I tried to slow her down and worried over her choking herself OR she would rudely complain and tantrum because she didn't like whatever the food was. Meanwhile, Jeremy and I were trying to get some kind of nourishment ourselves. Then, as soon as she was done, she was off into the apartment getting into things or trying to snatch more foods off the kitchen counter, so one of us had to take Ivelina duty and one of us had to take kitchen duty once she was done eating. Whew! An Olympic event!
Now, mealtime can still be a stressful time for us, but we have seen dramatic improvements. First improvement: Ivelina is becoming much more patient while we prepare meals. We are still having to make mostly quick and easy meals, but her patience is increasing. She knows that we have a pantry full of food, and she knows the refrigerator has food and drink. I think she is beginning to understand that the food is always there...it's not going away, and if it does, mama or taty will go to the store and get more. Sometimes she will even help me with meal prep. She will start the microwave for me, or turn the knob on the toaster oven. She has started to show an interest in helping with clean-up too. She likes to throw away the trash and put things back in the fridge. She likes to put the dirty dishes in the sink too. When we bring groceries home, she helps put them away. I think as she is becoming a helper with meal time and food, her behavior will only continue to improve!
Second improvement: she is trying new things. Ivelina's likes and dislikes have been inconsistent since we picked her up in country. For example, she loves mashed potatoes one day and hates them the next. This weekend, she tried and loved many new foods (mostly vegetables), which made me happy! She tried my non-spicy Thai stir fry and gobbled down all the rice first. I had my doubts that she would eat the veggies, but she ate peanuts, mushrooms, broccoli, carrots, zucchini, and yellow squash (in that order, one veggie at a time). Now, she asks for "peanicks" (peanuts) at every meal. She also tried salad and likes it plain with no dressing. She tried string cheese this weekend and loved it too. Ivelina most likely has always eaten a warm oatmeal for breakfast, so in Bulgaria and for our first week home, we were cooking either plain grits or plain oatmeal for her every day. She liked those breakfast foods! Now, having been home 2 weeks, she has added blueberry buckwheat pancakes, scrambled eggs, and cold cereal to her breakfast foods. Cereal is the favorite now. "Cearit," as she calls it. Every night as she goes to sleep, she asks if she can eat "cearit" the next day. Rice Chex all the way!
Third improvement: speed. Ivelina is not eating quite as fast as she was in Bulgaria. I am telling her through broken Bulgarian and some charades to eat slowly or she might choke. She gets it. She's not quite as ravenous now. She is now not stealing foods off our plate (like she did in BG), and she is not eating things out of the trashcan (like she did in BG). She is understanding that some things are dirty and we shouldn't eat them. I think knowing that another good meal or snack is coming soon has helped with these behaviors.
We are still working on:
- patience during meal prep
- trying all the foods on the plate before asking for more of one particular food
- not playing at the table during meals
- not hugging or talking with a full mouth while at the table
- not eating things that fall on the floor
We have kept a pretty rigid meal schedule, which is good for blood sugar maintenance and for security for Ivie.
Our meal schedule:
7-8ish a.m. - breakfast
10ish a.m. - snack
12-12:30 p.m. - lunch
3ish p.m. - snack
6 p.m. - dinner
I am still not able to really cook unless both Jeremy and I are home. One of us still has to watch Ivelina very closely around the house. Thus, when we are both home, I try to make a big meal that produces leftovers, so I can warm them up quickly when it's just me home. When we are there by ourselves with Ivie, we usually do sandwiches, chicken nuggets, and fresh stuff that doesn't need to be cooked. A few friends have brought us gift cards, home-cooked meals, and garden veggies during our first two weeks home. These gifts have been such a blessing!
In conclusion, it's going well. She is eating. Her behavior is improving. Jeremy and I are getting to actually eat too, which, ya know, is always good. Sorry, no photos in this post. With all that goes on during our meals, who has time to take pics?!